Bacha Posh

jenny nordberg

Bacha posh is a cultural practice in areas of Afghanistan where a family in which there are no sons may have a girl dress in characteristic male clothing and have her hair cut short, occupying an intermediate status in which she is treated as neither a daughter nor fully as a son. In Afghan culture, pressure exists to have a son to carry on the family name and to inherit his father’s property. In the absence of a son, families may dress one of their daughters as a male, with some holding the superstition that having a bacha posh will make it more likely for a woman to give birth to a son in a subsequent pregnancy.

As a bacha posh, a girl is more readily able to attend school, escort her sisters in public places and find work, in addition to helping overcome the shame that a family experiences at not having any male children. The girl’s status as a bacha posh usually ends when she enters puberty. Women raised as a bacha posh often have difficulty making the transition from life as a boy and adapting to the traditional constraints placed on women in Afghan society. The reverse of bacha posh is bacha bazi, where boys are dressed up as girls.

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